After a tumultuous second year in Major League Soccer, Orlando City preseason camp will begin on Monday.
Players reported to Orlando Health on Saturday morning for their team medicals, and spoke with members of the press regarding their offseason and goals for the upcoming 2017 season.
Here’s some key points on what goalkeeper Joe Bendik and defenders Jose Aja and Rafael Ramos had to say:
Aja’s hunger for more
After joining the team on-loan last summer from Uruguayan side Club Nacional, Jose Aja is back full time with Orlando City for the 2017 season.
The club announced in December it signed Aja to a four-year contract after his current 6-month loan with the Lions expired at the end of last season.
For Aja, 23, it meant more playing time and a chance to become a staple in Jason Kreis’ back line.
“To me it brings a lot of joy because it was my personal goal to stay here and play in Orlando after my loan,” Aja told reporters. “I’m fortunate that we were able to agree to a contract, and I’m really happy about that.”
The Uruguayan spent some of the offseason back home in South America, before returning to Central Florida a couple weeks earlier to prepare for the offseason.
Change was coming. It was inevitable. And Joe Bendik knew that when it was announced that goalkeeper coach Stewart Kerr left the club to join the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“I knew it was a possibility,” Bendik told The Mane Land’s Gavin Ewbank. “He called me and explained the situation. I’m really happy for him, being with his family and being in a place where I think he’ll succeed.”
Bendik added that he had a close relationship with his former goalkeeper coach, but was willing to embrace the change that was coming.
Orlando City appointed a new Tim Mulqueen as the club’s new goalkeeper coach, according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel’s Alicia DelGallo.
“It’s a familiar face for me,” Bendik said. “So I think we have a lot of things in common… and I’m looking forward to working with him again.”
Ramos is ready to go
The right-back defender spent most of the offseason in his native Portugal and even visited Luxembourg where the player has family.
“I didn’t stop in the offseason… I kept working, and I’m feeling great now,” Ramos said after injury plagued the Portuguese defender for some time last year. “We start training on Monday, and that’s when the fun stuff really begins.”
The Orlando City back line conceded a league-high of 60 goals. A problem that’s going to need to be addressed, Kreis told the OSJ earlier this month. Ramos was also on the same page and felt the team has to improve heading into the club’s new downtown stadium.
“The coach and we as a team need to make sure as a team we do better,” said Ramos. “We’re trying to improve… but we’ll see this week once I meet some of the new players. I think the [stadium] is going to be a great place for us and make it difficult for the visitors.”
2017 preseason update
Orlando City will announce its preseason schedule on Monday, a club official told the Orlando Soccer Journal on Saturday.
The OSJ has learned that Orlando City will host St. Louis FC in a preseason friendly at the club’s new downtown stadium sometime in February. Further details will be announced in the coming week.
Toronto FC is scheduled to play Orlando City on Sunday, Feb. 19. Date and time for the game has not been announced yet.
Jason Kreis’ team will start preseason camp on Monday at Sylvan Lake Park before embarking on a 10-day trip to Jacksonville.
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